Explorations in Theology

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Interrogating the ‘young’ Bible

One of the concepts I have been working with I put into the form of a rhetorical question. ‘Imaging interrogating the young Jesus (maybe 12 years old)….’ He grew up in his culture, a culture that did not view women very highly and saw Gentiles as rank outsiders (even ‘dogs’). Fully human meant that he did not float above the surface but was shaped by his culture. The remarkable feature is that he came to a place of full maturity – what we could term ‘truly human’ and by the time he was 33 was mature and became a source of salvation for all. Interrogate the 33 year old Jesus and his answers would not have simply stood out in his culture but would make our perspectives look tame. I am all but double that age, growing up with advantages he never had and am no where close to half that level of maturity.

[David Leigh in one of the Zoom groups opened my eyes to some fresh insight how Jesus was so far ahead, in spite of his culture, when in the Temple at age 12 he is questioning the ‘experts’, and it seems clear the questions were pushing them in terms of their interpretation of the Law.]

In the night – always happens – the ticking of the brain in the night… I was thinking that there is something similar going on with the Bible. Interrogate the ‘young Bible’ and we might be shocked by what comes back to us. Ask the mature Bible and we get a different take on things. [Of course the riders are many. So much of what we have was put together and edited in the period of the Babylonian exile, but we still get early ‘young Bible’ perspectives bleeding through.]

It is just another way of saying that the Bible is not a flat book, with all speaking at the same level, or that we are impacted by a trajectory ever moving forward, ultimately guided by life, not by right and wrong. So no big ticking of brain, more a trickle.

6 thoughts on “Interrogating the ‘young’ Bible

  1. Really interesting. What parts would you consider to be the ‘mature’ bible? Paul or John or the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah etc? I always feel John ends up as the most mature of the disciples and his writings seem to have understood the depths of the gospel message to a whole new level. This could just be be my bias for him being ‘the disciple who Jesus loved’ and his devotion to Jesus even at the foot of the cross. He didn’t abandon him and was commissioned with caring for his mother and I would always imagined even as a child that I like the women at the cross and John wouldn’t have deserted him in his hour of need – who knows I may have gone running for cover like the others did! Would you say there are snippets of maturity running throughout the old and new testaments interjected with ‘the young bible’ as you describe it? A very interesting post and really radical challenge to the traditional evangelical view of the bible as inerrant.

    1. Hi Joanna… you have picked up in the last sentence the challenge rightly. It flows from one of the Zoom groups where I suggested the ‘young’ Jesus might not be as radical as the mature Jesus. Conditioned by his culture he might even shock us with some of his answers… but the mature Jesus has continued to shock every culture. So I thought what about the Bible. There is progression within it… how much of that is culturally shaped? Sacrifice – ordained from heaven or in part in response to the culture of the day? The language of Leviticus is somewhat conditional – either translated as ‘when you sacrifice’, or it could even be ‘if you sacrifice…’ Certainly true of slavery and the rules for slavery. So I began to think of the Bible as a ‘young Bible’ and a mature Bible. Of course there is only one Bible, but there is a trajectory, and does the trajectory continue beyond the pages (not beyond the story being told, the direction of the trajectory).
      When I use the language ‘mature’ of the Bible I certainly acknowledge the maturity of (e.g.) Isaiah; I am thinking more of the Old Testament – war and even ‘wipe out those unbelievers’ but Jesus says ‘love your enemies’. And – comes up in book 2 – what if Paul had the first steps of what needs to be done to transform the entire Roman empire / world / any Imperial system. First steps being that of planting political groups based on the good news of Jesus… what if we are to think through steps 3, 4, 5 etc… Though I strongly guess we have to get to where he started! We probably are not that mature!!

  2. Yes to this. Very much yes.

    If our ‘bible’ is the story of God’s interaction with his world as it was, and if the spirit of God is constantly drawing his people away from their status quo, then we should not be surprised to hear a different set of suggestions from the same living Spirit of God if we happen to be starting from a different place.

    Inerrancy does not mean (to me at least) the same answer to the same question at all times

    Trajectory is so important. It seems to me that when God moved people along in their story he wasn’t showing a final destination as much as helping them away from their start point in a way that was achievable.

    The instruction to a man to marry his brothers wife should his brother die is not a model for us today with our starting point of female emancipation, but in its time it was a suggestion that certainly showed God’s redemptive character. His trajectory if you like

    All this said, as often as not, we find ourselves starting from exactly the same place as our ancestors

    blessings all

  3. Find the Word of God sooo interesting. How words shape our stories, our beliefs….how etymology shows the way the meaning of words change over the years…your comment that the Bible is not a flat book….just like we don’t follow a cardboard cutout, poster boy Jesus. How do words, our words, influence from the bottom up, not to persuade or win arguments or be right, but as grains of salt, yeast…those tiny things that change things considerably but should never be seen in what they produce (over yeasted bread…over salted food). As immature humans its so easy to have a revelatory thought and then use that as a hammer to declare to anyone who will listen that we are great (thinking about me in my 20s)…and also thinking how beautiful that enthusiasm and conviction is in my own 20 something children, even if I disagree with them wholeheartedly! If, like Jesus, we are constantly becoming more mature and aware of our own unfinishedness, then I guess we put ourselves in the best position to learn and develop our own communication as we go.

    1. Thanks Karen. ‘Put ourselves in the best position to learn and develop…’ Oh yes.

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